Kirtz In The News!
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Stillwater company makes an open, shut case for shutter business success Star quality
Film director and actor Woody Allen is a client, and so are former basketball star Larry Bird, country singer Clint Black, actress Katie Holmes and movie star Julie Andrews.
But to Stillwater business owner Chris Tietz, customers closer to home are the reason his custom-made shutter company, The Shutter Mill Inc. and its Kirtz Shutters brand, is going strong.
“The bulk of our business is Oklahomans,” Tietz said. “That’s my focus.”
Still, interior window shutters handcrafted from domestic and exotic hardwoods produced in his manufacturing facility on N Perkins Road are found in homes across the country and a handful of other countries.
“We’ve probably sold shutters in about every state,” he said, thanks to dealers scattered around the country and from a stylish Web site. And it is recommendations from those dealers that have put his often elaborately shaped shutters into the homes of those in the entertainment and sports world.
“The quality is why the big names have used us,” Tietz said. “But we work for a lot of people who live in more modest homes but who just want the best.”
Background to business
Tietz, who grew up in Payne County, began a carpentry career right out of high school. After working for home builders, he built his first shutters in 1987 from a home workshop with a former business partner.
“We made those first shutters without really knowing what we were doing,” he said, but the pair decided to start showing samples to home builders and then display them at trade shows.
The business grew quickly, he said, and by 1991 the company relocated from its original Stillwater space into the old Cimarron Ballroom. Tietz has more recently invested about $500,000 to add more than 11,000 square feet to accommodate production. About 50 employees assemble Kirtz shutters in a 33,000-square-foot space softened by a fine film of sawdust.
Tietz maintains an onsite repair shop for assembly tools, and leftover wood shavings are bagged and sold to Remington Park for horse bedding.
After the humblest of beginnings, “It all just mushroomed,” he said.
How shutters are produced
Three tractor-trailer loads of wood arrive at his facility each month, and from a storage area the various wood species wind their way through a production process that is detailed in a computer print-out, Tietz said. “It shows each worker in each department what size to cut the components.”
Shutters make their way through eight different areas, some featuring machines Tietz and his team designed and built themselves. “With someone in each station, we can produce a shutter in 32 minutes,” he said.
The company stocks eight different species of wood, but relies on many more to fill orders. “We have made shutters out of 80 different species of wood,” he said, including lesser known exotics such as bubinga, padauk, zebrawood, purpleheart and wormy chestnut.
Home decor trends spur interest in more unusual woods, and right now an “Old World” trend toward things appearing to be old even though they are new is driving an interest in wood with knots and splits on the finished product that gives it a unique look. Reclaimed wormy chestnut, taken from old barns and buildings in Virginia and West Virginia “is one of the most expensive woods we buy,” Tietz said.
Lifestyle trends also have consumers favoring shutters with wider louvers for better light and an improved view, and more wood stains instead of painted finishes, he said.
Tietz maintains his shutters can be made wider and taller than competitors because the hardwoods he uses are stronger and de…Click Here to finish reading. (By DEBBIE BLOSSOM)